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Baby on Board

by Eric Zinda


(based on 4 ratings)
4 reviews

About the Story

You’ve got one job: get the baby to daycare. How hard could it be?

(Perplexity does not use the standard “verb object” Interactive Fiction command structure. Instead, it explores using voice and full English as the interface. You can also use the keyboard if voice just isn’t working.

Imagine playing it using headphones as you walk your dog to get the basic idea.

It requires custom software to run (links below) which has also been designed to work with screen readers and sight impaired players.)

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Perplexity
IFID: Unknown
TUID: evou1ydbof6c70iz


Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2022


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Number of Reviews: 4
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
In which we might better embrace conventions, May 23, 2022
by DB (Columbus, OH)
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2022

OK so this is going to be a bit of a review of my thoughts on Perplexity as experienced through this game perhaps more than it's a review of the game. We'll see. Also I considered spoiler tagging some of this, but as I got all of three rooms deep into the game, I don't think I really got far enough to spoil anything.

"I only understand full English sentences like 'take the lamp.'" Hmm. OK, but even "Take the lamp" uses the conventional shortcut of an implied subject. It can't further imply an article and answer to >GET LAMP? That seems a little backward.

Turns out Perplexity will expand some typed commands into what it understands as a full command, but it will take the time to tell you every time. I get that the screenreader is helpful for some players, but I wish I could turn it off specifically because it reads these messages out to me every time, word for word, when I would rather just ignore them and move on, reading at my own pace [unspoiler: it is possible, I just missed it]. People have had this critique of homebrew or startup parsers for a long time and it's not that there's no purpose in them, but: what is the point of developing a parser that is specifically less forgiving than its more popular, conventional contemporaries?

>Who am I
>What am I wearing?
"I don't understand 'wearing'"
>knock on door
(Rephrased as: 'Knock on the door.' I'm just guessing here since I'm not designed for shortcuts, use a full sentence or I can get confused.)

Perplexity rejects the convenience of using an established vocabulary of shortcuts in favor of fully embracing the false promise of the parser while at the same time constantly reminding the player of the limits of its parser. Its parser also seems less advanced than some others, unequipped to understand "it" as a reference as far as I could tell.

>Where is the baby?
"Rosa's House, a living room, a world, and north somewhere."
I'm not really sure how I should understand this answer. I think it means: in the living room of Rosa's house, north of your current location, but it kinda reads like I asked William S. Burroughs during a binge.

>Where are you?
"inside a porch and inside a world"
No, that's where *I* am. I think. Actually, I'm *on* the porch.

>enter house
"(Rephrased as... [truncated])
You look around the immaculate living room. Near the couch is a coffee table with a note and a diaper bag on it. Tom is sitting on the floor next to idScrewdriver1.

Tom is gone!

There are doors..."

Welp, that's where I quit. I did report this apparent bug and I'm informed that it's fixed if you're curious about having a further go at it than I did. The game needs more polish and although I appreciate Perplexity's accessibility for screen readers and mic use (not my preference), I think that its rejection of conventions works against it more than it helps.

Note: this review is based on older version of the game.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A tech demo, May 13, 2022

Games made with the Perplexity engine are hugely unique experiences because of the idiosyncratic way in which the parser and world model work. For reasons I can sort of fathom, this engine eschews conventional parser input practices in favor of a system that aspires to be able to parse truly natural language, but has a long way to go. For reasons I can totally fathom, it also generally eschews bespoke descriptions in favor of automatically-generated ones, which could one day become a golden feature, but also has a long way to go.

Here are some of the amazing interactions I had with this game. I believe they speak for themselves.

(Spoiler - click to show)>who am i
>what am i
>where am i
inside a sidewalk and inside a world
>what color is the sidewalk
a color is not the sidewalk
>take the sidewalk
I can't because it is part of a sidewalk that I am inside

(Spoiler - click to show)>check my inventory
I didn't understand 'inventory'. Maybe try: 'what do you see in there?' and 'Where are you?'
>what do i have
a backside, 2 hand, below you, in back of you, left of you, and right of you
>look at backside
Sorry, I'm designed to understand grammatically correct English. Say 'help' for more information.
>look at my backside
a backside is a backside, a physical object, a place, and a thing. It is connected to you.

While I could comment on Baby on Board as a game and a piece of writing, that would be beside the point, because it is a tech demo first and foremost. And as a tech demo, it displays a mix of promising and concerning features.

To start with the concerning, each turn takes anywhere from 5-15 seconds for the engine to process (at least on my computer, which I do admittedly use to cook certain elements of my breakfast, but the old rig still processes a typical parser turn instantaneously for all practical purposes). Perhaps I lack patience, but to me, this is an extremely serious flaw.

On the other hand, anything that can generate a funny response (intended or otherwise) to trying to take a sidewalk is worthwhile in my view. Perplexity's ability to auto-generate outputs based on the dizzying assortment of relations that it models has actually got me pretty excited. Right now those outputs aren't very good, but the potential is there and I'm eager to see where it will eventually lead.

Though, much like the baby at the center of this game, I reckon the engine won't truly shine without a few more years of development!

Voice-activated interactive fiction game about taking a baby to daycare, April 28, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I helped beta-test this game.

This game uses a custom parser first developed in Kidney Kwest, but with a twist: it's intended to be played entirely vocally.

The parser encourages you to use full sentences (so 'open door' might throw a warning that it's better to say 'open the door'). It also is designed from the ground up and seems to involve a lot of built-in systems. So, for instance, asking about the location of a thing will usually tell you what room it's in, what region it's in, etc. Due to this systematic nature, sometimes the game will omit capitalization or punctuation, but this usually not detectable in the voice version. A final issue is saying 'put Time on [anything]' (a phrase I said a lot because in my accent Time sounds like Tom to the computer), the parser says 'a bottom is not on a time'.

The game itself is simple, and gives you a lovely tutorial that shows you how the whole system works. The tutorial is, itself, a small game. The larger game is mostly interacting with things: doors, keys, containers.

When I beta tested, I completed the game, although it seems to have been expanded since then. This time I believe I got locked in an unwinnable state since I (Spoiler - click to show)left the baby in the car and went inside, and the car took off without me. Overall, I think this technology is interesting and must have been very complex to program.

An audio experiment with a good game behind., April 15, 2022


I tried to test Erik’s game but my PC and my low english spoken skill didn’t let me do. This is a game you have to speak with,
you have to play using voice and full English as the interface but I used the keyboard becouse voice just wasn’t working.

So I gived it a try introducing text and I can say this worth a try. It is an original piece pf work, you will enjoy it.


This is version 2 of this page, edited by InductorSoftware on 24 April 2022 at 11:58pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item